Unlikely writing techniques 4: pick your pen up…

genuine work in progress
genuine work in progress

… that’s it.

I do most of my writing on the train. My daily rail journey is fifty-five miles each way; it takes about as many minutes. Once I’ve read the office and put my make-up on, I have about forty minutes left. It’s a regular, predictable slot of time, with reliably unreliable internet access, that I can devote to writing. I write all the way from Royston to King’s Cross.

Well, that’s the theory. In reality, of course, it’s earlier in the morning than I’d like it to be, I’m sleepy, I’d rather be in bed, I am wondering why the hell I commute into London anyway, and I am not feeling in the least inspired. I might have thought of what to write next as I cycled to the station, but I equally well might have not done so.

If I’m in that sort of mood, I make a bargain with myself. I do not have to write anything. All I have to do is get out my notebook and my pen, and find the last thing that I wrote, the next blank page.

And then I wait.

Sometimes it works instantaneously. I catch sight of the last thing I wrote the previous day, and I remember what was going to happen next. Suddenly the train’s passing Stevenage and I’m most of the way down a page.

Sometimes – less often, actually – it doesn’t. In which case I accept that it probably isn’t going to happen, read something instead, and try again on the way home.

Barbara Sher and Havi Brooks would call this an example of a CWU. Officially this stands for Complete Willingness Unit, but Havi is a great advocate of renaming boring initials, and I’m a trade unionist, so in my head there is a bunch of grumpy postmen saying, ‘Our members are prepared to take the lids off their pens, but that is as far as they will go.’

Sometimes I make it Cockatrices and Wyverns Union. But they still have postbags.

Talk of the Town


August Reviews

Reading Twitter this evening, I’ve become aware of an initiative called #AugustReviews, which encourages readers to go to Amazon and leave one review on one book that they’ve read. This post by Terry Tyler gives a comprehensive explanation of the why and wherefore (and this post by Rosie Amber gives a very thorough description of the how, and the how it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as one might think).

I’m ambivalent about Amazon myself. As a good trade unionist I try to avoid buying things on there (I live in Cambridge, not far from Heffers and a huge quantity of charity shops; I own a Kobo; generally this is fairly easy for me) but it’s an ill wind, etc, and Amazon has been very good for independent authors. Me included. And yes, we like reviews, and no, the book didn’t have to come from Amazon in the first place.

Mine is here (UK) and here (US) if you’re suddenly feeling the urge to leave a review of it. But I think I’d be behind this idea even if I didn’t have a horse in the race, and I’d encourage you to review any book you’ve enjoyed. At the very least it’ll cheer an author up.